Too often the "Memorial" in Memorial Day is ignored by many of those who are beneficiaries of the ultimate sacrifice made by the nation’s fallen heroes. I encourage each citizen to observe the day as it should be, a day of actively remembering our ancestors, family members, loved ones, neighbors and friends who died in defense of freedom.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed 145 years ago as an observance originally known as Decoration Day, dedicated to honor Civil War soldiers. The national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic issued a General Order that read in part, "... Gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime ... let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude — the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan." (General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868.)
Today this observance is held to honor the memory of all who fought for and defended our right to freedom.
Beginning with World War I, some 163 Bradley County residents have made the ultimate sacrifice so we may continue to enjoy all that freedom brings. They, and their surviving families and friends, must never be forgotten. It is a time to remember!
As I’ve said many times, we are fortunate to live in a wonderful, caring and patriotic community as indicated by the various war memorials erected in memory of our war dead. There are three monuments on the East Side of our County Courthouse. The World War I monument has a plaque with 19 names, the World War II monument contains 120 names, and the Korea and Vietnam Monument has 11 names from Korea and 11 more from Vietnam.
We have added the “Gulf War” to the Korean/Vietnam Monument. Sadly, the names of two more Bradley County residents have been added there. They are PFC James W. Price who was killed in Baghdad, Iraq by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 18, 2004. He was 22 years old and was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense. SGT David T. Weir died on Sept. 14, 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq of injuries suffered on Sept. 13 when he encountered enemy forces using rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire during combat operations. He was 23 years old assigned to 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
Bradley Memorial Hospital, which was originally constructed and owned by Bradley County, was dedicated to the memory of those Bradley County residents who lost their lives during World War II. SkyRidge Medical Center is in the process of installing plaques inscribed with the names of those 120 soldiers who died in battle.
Many years ago poet Thomas Campbell wrote, “The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree.” This Memorial Day I encourage each of us to renew our determination that the tree of freedom will continue to flourish. Take a few moments to place a flag or flowers on the grave of a fallen hero. Visit our county’s memorials and honor a soldier’s memory with a moment of silence … and say a prayer for the widows, orphans and disabled veterans who are still with us.
Our 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison, had this to say about this annual observance, "I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. "
May we always remember! I invite and encourage you to attend this year’s Memorial Day Ceremony, Monday, May 27, at 10:30 a.m. on the Courthouse Plaza.